Moving day at the Vans Pro Junior determined the event's Quarterfinalists in sheet glass, two-foot surf and clutch performances emerged. It was anything but easy at 1st Street Jetty despite slightly improved conditions, however, some of North America's premier surfing talents 18-and-under rose to the occasion.
While a Quarterfinal result at this level of competition is often a throwaway for those looking at a Top 4 finish for their shot at the World Junior Championships, it can provide a vital momentum shift heading into the homestretch of 2018.
Liam Murray Drops Jaws with Stunning Round 2 Pro Junior Debut
But, it was fireworks in the following heat as Murray dropped the event's highest heat total so far, an insatiable 17.76 (out of a possible 20). The San Clemente, California, native's formidable backhand attack looked razor-sharp in the clean conditions, earning an 8.83 (out of a possible 10) and ending the heat with another excellent 8.93. The 17-year-old had unfinished business after his early exit in the Vans Pro QS 3,000 and going back to last year in the Pro Junior, but looked in tune with a decimating performance today.
"It feels good after I lost early yesterday and it fired me up, triggered me almost, to do really well today," Murray said. "I was thinking I want to go home after yesterday, but then thought no, I'm here and I'm going to do my best. Knowing I can get scores like that gives me a lot of confidence moving forward. I got a result in Florida and then kind of shut down after that so I'm looking to get another result here, hopefully stay in that Top 10 for a shot at Worlds next year."
North America No. 1 and 2 Keep Pace
A key Round 2, debut win for current North America No. 1 Crosby Colapinto got competition underway as Blake Speir last-minute heroics eliminated Japanese contender Joh Azuchi. But, it was Colapinto who took control of the affair over Azuchi midway through the heat and didn't relinquish that top spot. The San Clemente, California, native comes into Virginia Beach with two throwaway results and has to get the job done here for a shot at retaining that position.
"I just wanted to stay busy because any wave could turn into something good out there, but it's more peaky so it was easier to build speed," Colapinto said. "Everyone's surfing the same thing so it doesn't matter when you look at it like that. It's good doing both events because you get a lot of time in the water and can learn more about the wave. I'm really just trying to do better than a Quarterfinal and it's crazy because everyone is wanting to make Worlds or win the (North America) series."
Current No. 2 Eithan Osborne kept pace with Colapinto after a great performance in his Round 2 debut. After a tough QS heat that followed and resulted in the Ventura, California, surfer's elimination, Osborne now turns his focus completely toward a Vans Pro Junior win. But, the 18-year-old is staying focused on the present and not over thinking the process.
"It's good to get a chance at the QS and Junior for points, and also to stay in the water more - especially up here. If you sit too long it could turn on you so you have to roll the dice and grind it. Once you come here a few times you know what to expect and how to overcome it. The trick is to just make your surfing look good and you have to do a lot freesurfing, as well as watching a lot of heats. I'd love to win another event this year and get back to No. 1, but there's still a few more big heats ahead so I'm staying in the moment and just doing my best surfing."
Also advancing, current No. 4 Tyler Gunter made his way into the Quarterfinals, as well as into Round 3 of the QS 3,000 -- though his focus remains on the Pro Junior.
San Clemente Duo Stumble, Early Exit for Mexico's Alan Cleland
Florida's Chase Modelski started a chain reaction in the final two heats of Round 2, beginning with the elimination of Vans US Open runner-up Cole Houshmand. But, it was Jacob Burke's final wave that played spoiler to current No. 3 Kade Matson, moving from third-place to first in their hard-fought heat.
This marks Burke's best result so far on the Pro Junior front as he returns back to the Quarterfinals for the first time since last year's visit to Virginia Beach. The 18-year-old prepares for the QS full-time, but has his ambitions set on finishing his junior career strong.
"It's pretty great to get some heats going even though I lost in the QS after my junior heat today," Burke said. "I've had a tough start to the year and I'm just looking to hit the reset button. I'm learning to stay relaxed, stay confident, and just surf how I do in freesurfs. It's a good feeling to come out of a heat like that and it's great for my confidence, but it only gets harder so you just have to keep doing better."
Hawaii competitors continue to dismantle the North American's hopes of earning big results as Ocean Macedo helped send event threat Cleland out of the draw after coming into Virginia Beach with a lot of momentum from a fourth-place US Open showing. Macedo's already garnered a trip to the World Junior Championship to start 2018 and, sitting at No. 3 on the Hawaii/ Tahiti Nui rankings, could make a return trip this coming year. While points don't count toward Macedo's campaign here alongside fellow Hawaii competitors Cole Alves and Wyatt McHale, early experience against international competitors and some extra heats towards the Vans Pro QS 3,000 are up for grabs.
Tomorrow's 8:30 a.m. EDT call will determine a possible 9:00 a.m. EDT start for either Men's Round 3 or Pro Juniors Quarterfinals.